Prehistoric Period

Indus Valley Civilization

Vedic Era

Rivals to Hinduism

Mauryan Empire

Gupta Empire

Period of Political Instability

Period of Muslim Dominance

India Under British Rule

The Indian Republic

 

© 2003 David Koeller.  All rights reserved.

 

India's Independence From Britain

1947 

 

The first British outpost in India was established in 1619.  This led to the establishment of the British East India Company, which had a monopoly over all British trade with the region.  Gradually the British spread their control inland and by the 1850s, nearly all of present day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh had fallen under British control.  English was made the official language and several traditional Hindu customs were outlawed. Due to a bloody Indian rebellion in 1857, political power was transferred from the East India Company directly to the British Crown and the company dissolved.  

Back to "The Indian Republic" Chronology

Agriculturally and industrially, India prospered under British rule.  A railway network was set up, and trade increased as well.  Yet socially, India suffered great unrest.  The Indians were disturbed by the treatment they received from the British, while the British attempted to shift the blame onto the Indian Muslim population, further fueling the fire of age-old hostility between the Hindus and Muslims. In 1885 the Indian National Congress was formed, a primarily Hindu body fighting for power back in Indian hands.  Although it was mainly ignored by the British, it soon won popular support in the Indian population calling for Indians to take more pride in their history and products. The year 1906 brought the formation of the political All India Muslim League which supported the Crown; soon after, with the 1909 India Councils Act, Muslims won the right for separate elections. 

European attacks on Islamic countries however, began to undermine Muslim allegiance to the British Crown and talk of a new separate Muslim state increased.  With the passing of the Rowlatt Acts, protests erupted across the country from Hindus and Muslims alike. Then, the British slaughter of 400 unarmed Indians and wounding of 1200 more at Amistar in 1919 shattered beyond repair any hope of British rule in India.  The fact that British rule would withdraw from India became clear.  It was only a matter of time.  Mahatma Gandhi and other nationalist leaders broke all cooperation with the British, boycotting goods, courts, schools, and elections. Also, the question of creating a separate Muslim state was becoming ever more pressing.   A tentative line was drawn indicating the Islamic area which would be called Pakistan, but disputes erupted over the region of Kashmir.  Put under pressure, the prince of the region signed hastily with India and the conflict over the region began which still takes place today. 

Although the transfer of power from Britain to India has been presented as an expert example of Anglo-Indian relations, acclaimed historian Paul Johnson, noting the region's incredible diversity, states the opposite: "The reality is that the British government simply lost control.In 1945 India was over 400 million people: 250 million Hindus, 90 million Muslims, 6 million Sikhs, millions of sectarians, Buddhists, Christians; 500 independent princes and maharajahs; 23 main languages, 200 dialects; 3,000 castes, with 60 million untouchables at the bottom of the heap."(Johnson, 470). Additionally, the division of Pakistan from India prompted mass emigration: Muslims moving west to Pakistan and Hindus moving east toward India. Amid this unrest, at midnight on August 14, 1947, Britain withdrew its control, and India and Pakistan became two separate, independent, democratic nations.


Bibliography

Johnson, Paul. Modern Times(New York; HarperCollins Publishers, Inc, 1991)  pp. 469-74.

"Pak Avenue:  Pre-Independence. British Rule in India" <http://www.pakavenue.com/webdigest/history/pre_independence_002.htm >

"Indian Child: An Introduction to the History of India" <http://www.indianchild.com/history_of_india.htm>

<http://165.29.91.7/classics/humanities/worldstud/97-98/imper/india>

 

Written and Researched by:
betsy jayne birkey
HIST 2260: History of the Modern World
10 September 2003

Text copyright 2003 by David W. Koeller. . All rights reserved.